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Adrian Hamilton tribute - Stuart Rolt

Adrian Hamilton in D-type

My friend Adrian, or 'Hammy', was Best Man at my wedding. He made a really terrible speech and this, at last, is my chance to get my own back! 

I know none of us can really accept that that immense, omnipresent character has gone. That wonderful warmth and enthusiasm with which he engaged with life and with people was something we are all so grateful to have experienced, whether as family, or as friends, or in business. Once you were absorbed into the expansive and extrovert character that was 'Hammy', you would never forget him, and, by the way, he would not forget you.  

As a boy he was brought up in a loving and very happy home and from his beautiful mother Angela inherited his kindness to others, and from his father Duncan he inherited that sense of wickedness and adventure. 

His sister Caroline experienced this very early in life, when 'Hammy', inspired by Peter Pan, tied pillow cases to her arms and legs and launched her out of an upstairs window. She was saved by a handily-placed bush...  

At kindergarten he was so upset with the way he was treated that he ran out of the school and, before the school even noticed his absence, had stomped home across the middle of Wokingham,  across two main roads and through the traffic.   

We know 'Hammy' as a brilliant deal maker. This started early. At the school he went to with Caroline, there was a boy who was brilliant at maths – not Hammy’s strong point. This boy was very keen on Caroline, and ‘Hammy’ saw an opportunity. He cut a lock from his sister’s hair, put it in envelope and gave it to the mathematician saying it was a token of her love for him, which of course it wasn’t,  but in return 'Hammy' got this boy to do all his maths homework for him. An early 'Hammy' deal. 

He was brought up in a household where fun was important, and life was lived to the full. I have a very clear memory of being mightily impressed, when aged 17, being asked to join a family trip to the South of France. We cruised down through France in a convertible Ford Galaxie to stay on the lovely Hamilton yacht Cynara in Antibes.

Aged about 18, a gang of us, including a girl 'Hammy' was rather keen on, stayed in the Hamilton caravan in Devon – a bit less glamorous than the South of France. 

After his two-year stint in the merchant navy, he joined Duncan’s small business with the showroom in Bagshot. 'Hammy' excelled at finding owners for stunningly beautiful and rare cars, and Duncan  was rightly immensely proud of the way 'Hammy' grew the business.

He had that wonderful ability to leave the seller feeling he had got a terrific price, and the new owner feeling they had got a great deal. But he also wanted buyers to enjoy their beautiful machines, and had the brilliant idea of creating the Hamilton Tours which he organised superbly. He created a name and reputation for himself second to none.

He basically loved people, chatting and gossiping for ever. He learned to use the phone in a way that made one want to keep chatting away; he always had a story, normally heavily exaggerated. He was wonderfully indiscreet, and that is what made him such great company, and also so brilliant at his job.

To his children, he was Paddington Bear. Why? Well, it’s obvious: he loved marmalade; he was very polite; and he was always in trouble!

Big in every way, he was wonderfully generous, grabbing every opportunity to enjoy himself and to give joy to others. But he was also a very kind man, often going out of his way to help people who were in real trouble, whether health or financial, even if he didn’t know them very well. 

'Hammy' loved his toys: cars, planes and boats. He was so proud of the beautiful motor yacht Hush, and he was a generous host on board. But he was an accomplished helmsman, and manoeuvred Hush, a large boat, with great skill in very confined spaces. He was at the wheel when, coming into Lymington to berth up, something went horribly wrong with the controls and Hush just kept motoring forward. I think you can all imagine the 'Hammy' description of the ensuing destruction of the pontoon and other boats.   

He was so proud of Hush, his pride and joy, but when he sold it he decided he needed another toy on the water. So he bought Windy, a very fast speedboat. The only problem was he found he could not fit in it, so it was used only once. 

It says something about the man he was that he managed to maintain a close and happy relationship with both his ex-wives. But I think only 'Hammy', as a newly-divorced bachelor, would immediately set up a new website for male divorcees to compare notes called, quite brilliantly, Wife’s Gone DotCom. And who other than 'Hammy' would get himself on a really terrible reality TV programme called Ladette to Lady, where he was the eligible and available bachelor. And some will remember his appearance on Ready Steady Cook, where he was in competition with Emily, and quite astonishingly, beat her.

'Hammy' believed life was to be enjoyed to the maximum, and to always push the boundaries. He had no time for rules and regulations. A quote from Groucho Marx sums up Hammy’s attitude to life: ‘When you are in jail, a good friend will be trying to bail you out. A best friend will be in the cell next door, saying “Damn, that was fun.”’

He was terrible at looking after his body, being a smoker long after others had given up. And his idea of dieting was to eat Maltesers, because there is nothing inside a Malteser. 

But then he was really brave and philosophical about his cancer, which was actually very tough to deal with, and he just got on with life without complaint, telling terrible jokes about his treatment and how it affected him.  

He hated lockdown and the restrictions it brought to all of us, but lockdown resulted in ‘Hammy’ becoming an addict of TV quiz shows, in particular The Chase and Who Wants to be a Millionaire. His big wish, sadly unachieved, was to have dinner with Bradley Walsh. That his three favourite films were Paddington Bear, Love Actually and Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines sums up the man he was.

There are of course so many 'Hammy' stories, but one which I think sums him so well is when in Australia, before the start of the Adelaide rally, he, like all drivers, had to do a breathalyser test. The rather fierce Aussie copper was greeted by 'Hammy' with the words, 'Good morning officer. I have to say I‘ve got the most terrible hangover.' 

'Hammy', thank you for bringing so much joy and laughter.

Stuart Holt

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